Jennifer Lopez is into guilty pleasures. And we don’t mean her latest film, the steamy thriller "The Boy Next Door," where the 45-year-old plays as an English teacher who succumbs to the advances of her neighbor's hot young nephew (Ryan Guzman). As you can imagine, it doesn't go very well from there.
"I prefer romantic comedies,” says the actress who has starred in films less fraught with terror such as "The Wedding Planner," "The Back-Up Plan” or others. “They’re just fun. You’re just seeing how silly you can make things. They’re romantic and I’m a hopeless romantic as well.”
That’s not to say the Golden Globe nominee, who’s also a successful pop star, doesn’t push herself creatively. "Being more dramatic or being more tough or being more vulnerable, it's all the same. It's all about trying to find the reality in the moment, making it real. All of a sudden I have this high-pitched scream that I've never heard myself do, and that's when I know I'm tapping into something real."
Another challenge of the role was the extremely intimate sex scene that sets the craziness of the plot in motion. "Scenes like that are always uncomfortable," she says. "It's a very vulnerable position to be in. It's not something you ever get used to as an actress.”
Comfort level can't always be the priority, though, especially when so much of the story depends on such a steamy scene. "This was a very important scene in this film. If that scene didn't work — if it wasn't intense, passionate, real enough — then the rest of the movie doesn't make any sense because that's the moment that they share together."
"The Boy Next Door" also gave Lopez some new learning experiences into independent filmmaking. "We got it made on a micro-budget of $4 million in 25 days," she reveals. "I never had done a film like that in my career. But it was very liberating as an artist because it made me realize, I can make whatever movie I want like this. It's the material that really matters, like, 'Do I feel like doing this at this time?' and not waiting for a big studio to green-light something or hire you as an actress. It really is very empowering."
So how much does art imitate life? Or at least, how much did the story of "The Boy Next Door" resonate with star Jennifer Lopez's own life? Not that much, thankfully. Lopez happily reports that her own experiences have been much more sedate and age-appropriate. "Actually, my first boyfriend was the boy next door when I was like 13 or 14 years old," she remembers. "It was the summer I turned 14. He was cute. Cute enough, I guess, at the time."
But what about the flip side of the film, when the cute enough boy next door becomes a deranged stalker? "I've had people kind of obsessed with me, but not like obsessed in a dangerous, scary way," she says. "No, thank God. I've never had to deal with anything like that."
So why was she was absent from movie screens in 2014? Because she was still waiting for the old system to work? Not quite. "For me, it's just about what feels right at the time, and I was very in music land last year in 2014," she explains.
And besides, she's making up for lost time already with 2015. "I'll do two movies this year. I'll do a series this year. I'll do 'American Idol' this year," she says. "I'll do a lot of different things this year that we already have planned. Again, I just go with what feels right at the time."
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick